Genealogy of a Bank

Originally Published December 25, 2019

Click to watch a snippet of the movie.

As part of my annual complement of Christmas movies, I recently watched It’s A Wonderful Life. This 1947 classic featured James Stewart, fighting to keep his “Building and Loan” afloat. I wondered what Building and Loans were, and why we never hear about them anymore. I remembered seeing ads for the Golden Building and Loan in old Transcripts. What happened to it?

I searched Google for “Building and Loan” and found a good article explaining what they were: Building and loan associations were mutually held financial institutions that greatly increased the accessibility of home loans from the 1830s to the 1930s. Guided by a spirit of “mutual self-help,” participants pooled their money—generally within small, regional B&Ls—and in turn became eligible to receive dividends and take out a mortgage. From the mid-1930s onward, B&Ls began morphing into federal savings and loan institutions, which had a charter from the U.S. government and relied on federal deposit insurance. Source:

The Golden Building and Loan opened in 1910. It was apparently well-managed, helped a lot of Golden people finance homes, and paid remarkably high interest–8% in 1930!

In 1933, there were bank runs all over the country, and in response, President Roosevelt closed every banking institution in the nation for a “bank holiday.” The Federal Reserve gradually permitted banks that they deemed to be solvent to reopen. Golden’s bank at that time, the Rubey National, never reopened, but the Golden Building and Loan opened after a 10-day “holiday.”

In 1940, the Golden Building and Loan became the Golden Savings and Loan. In later years it became First Federal Savings and it’s now Bank of the West.

(How did my Christmas column turn into the genealogy of a bank?)

Merry Christmas, Golden!

Thanks to the Golden History Museum for their ongoing efforts to digitize our historic newspapers, and thanks to the Golden Transcript for documenting our history since 1866. Thanks to Jack and Joy Brandt for helping me trace the history of Bank of the West!

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